More Iraqi Christians flee to Jordan because of persecution
Amid stepped up violence against Christians in Iraq, many Iraqis have fled to neighboring Jordan as a stepping stone to get to the U.S., Australia, Canada or Europe.
According to the AFP, many Christians fled to Jordan because of threats from the radical Shiite Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr. However, after the Oct. 31 attack on Baghdad’s Syriac Catholic cathedral, the numbers have increased.
One Christian, Moayed (who would not give his last name), told the AFP he fled Iraq after the radical Shiite Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr blew up his supermarket and told him to leave because “there is no room here for Christians.”
Mohannad Najem told the AFP, “Churches in Iraq no longer issue birth certificates in order to contain the exile of Christians.” He fled to Jordan with his wife and four little children because the Mahdi Army told him that unless he paid $1,000 a month, his children would be killed one by one.
Uday Hikmat, 33, told the AFP he and his parents left Iraq three days after the church massacre. With his birth certificate, he hopes to complete documentation for an emigration visa to Canada.
Flawed U.S. State Department report
Meanwhile, Muslim and Christian leaders in Jordan disputed report recent U.S. State Department report on religious freedoms, which said Jordan discriminates against citizens who convert to other faiths, The Jordan Times said.
The report said, “While relations between Muslims and Christians generally were good, adherents of unrecognized religions and Muslims who converted to other religions faced societal discrimination and the threat of mental and physical abuse,” The Jordan Times reported.
According to The Jordan Times the report said, “The [Jordan] government continued to harass some citizens and resident foreign groups suspected of proselytizing Muslims and a few Muslim converts to Christianity, including by attempting to induce them to revert to Islam. But the intensity of the harassment declined during the reporting period.”
Muslim and Christian leaders said the report cites individual cases that don’t represent the country. Father Nabil Haddad of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center told The Jordan Times, “We have never had any difficulties in setting up churches or religious schools to teach our congregation the rituals of Christianity.”
Hamzah Mansour of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood told The Jordan Times, “Muslims and Christians…are one people and we have never had any problems with coexistence.”
Both faith leaders agreed that the resistance is against foreign missionary activities in Jordan–not against both faiths, according to The Jordan Times.
The U.S. State Department report said Jordan’s Constitution, penal code and civil law do not ban conversion, nor proselytizing Muslims. However, because primacy is given by the government to Sharia law, it takes precedence over Muslims’ personal lives and prohibits conversion, The Jordan Times said.
The State Department report said that Sharia “infringes upon the religious rights and freedoms laid out in the Constitution by prohibiting conversion from Islam and discriminating against religious minorities in some matters relating to family law.”